Two musicians fall for each other during one steamy New York City summer.
Good to know
Ruby has always been Ruby Chertok future classical pianist, heir to the Chertok family legacy, daughter of renowned composer Martin Chertok. But after bungling her audition for the prestigious Amberley School of Music—where her father is on faculty—Ruby is suddenly just ... Ruby. And who is that again? All she knows is that she wants out of the orbit of her relentlessly impressive family, and away from the world of classical music for good. Yes? Yes.
Oscar is a wunderkind, a musical genius. Just ask any of the 1.8 million people who've watched him conduct his own compositions on YouTube--or hey, just ask Oscar. But while he might be the type who'd name himself when asked about his favorite composer and somehow make you love him more for it, Oscar is not the type to jeopardize his chance to study under the great Martin Chertok--not for a crush. He's all too aware of how the ultra-privileged, ultra-white world of classical music might interpret a black guy like him falling for his benefactor's white daughter. Right? Right.
But as the New York City summer heats up, so does the spark between Ruby and Oscar. Soon their connection crackles with the same alive, uncontainable energy as the city itself. But can two people still figuring themselves out figure out how to be together? Or will the world make the choice for them?
A stranger was playing my piano. My piano, untouched for months, purring under his fingers like a stray cat. More than purring . . . singing, leaping, laughing, dying, all in the time it took me to stumble-run downstairs.
I stared into the dusty living room from the bottom step, not trusting my eyes—my ears even less. But there he was, half standing while he played, one knee on the bench, like this was a quick errand he’d needed to run.
A boy. Tall, lean, angular, skin rich brown, hair a supernova of spirals backlit by afternoon sun.
I couldn’t see his fingers, but I could feel them skipping over the keys, tiny pings in my chest, arms, spine. So many notes. It was contrapuntal, insanely complex, cogs and gears—which piece? I couldn’t pick out the key, let alone the composer, but here he was, commanding my piano, smiling at some private joke. He wasn’t even looking at the keyboard as he played.
He was staring at me.
“Do you like it?” he called.
Was this a hallucination? A musical one?
“You play really well,” I got out.
Nobody was supposed to touch my piano. Not me, not anybody. Not anymore.
Not a stranger in my house.
Why I love it
When I pick out books to read, I don’t normally go for romance. So when I began Night Music, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But quickly I realized this story has the three elements I most love in a book: an intricate plot, highly developed characters, and an authentic voice. Not only did I relate to the young protagonist struggling to leave her mark on the world, but I found myself enjoying both the carefully crafted romance and the smart jabs at instances of institutionalized racism that often go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives.
After a series of failures in the world of music, Ruby, a teenager from a classical music dynasty, is struggling to find out who she is and what she wants to be. Her confusion only grows when Oscar Bell, her father’s prodigious mentee, comes to New York to study for the summer. Oscar is acutely aware of both the pressure and judgment he faces as a young African-American man on the rise in the world of classical music, where diversity is thin. Complications ensue when Ruby realizes she is falling for him and as they both navigate the complex waters of NYC’s classical music scene.
I loved this book because of the way it tackled many of the things YA readers care about: identity, societal issues, and of course, an earnest romance. The book’s imagery—especially the bustle and impersonality of city life—drew me into the story even before I fell for the unique and relatable characters. While some romances can be a bit too mushy, this book was grounded in real-world problems—from institutionalized racism and implicit biases to how to differentiate yourself from the crowd—which gave the story its depth. Night Music is a sweet, convincing, and accessible story about first love and the choices we make about who we want to be.